Gilbert Amason ’20 Becomes First EHS Student to Earn Scholarship for Arabic Study
To study at Episcopal, Gilbert Amason ’20 left his home in Birmingham, Ala., some 800 miles away. Now, he’s journeying another 4,000 miles to study Arabic.
Gilbert recently received a competitive scholarship for eight weeks of intensive Arabic study as part of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, a U.S. Department of State program. He will spend most of June and July in Marrakesh, Morrocco, living with a local family, taking classes, and exploring the country’s history and culture.
Gilbert is the first EHS student to earn an NSLI-Y scholarship to study Arabic. Eight others have been selected to study Chinese, including Isabelle Bechtel '20, who will spend much of this summer in Taiwan.
Gilbert began learning Arabic this year through the Global Online Academy, a not-for-profit consortium of leading independent schools around the world. His teachers are current or former instructors at the King’s Academy, a top-rated boarding school in Jordan, and his classmates include students from across the country as well as from Brazil, China, Japan, and more.
Gilbert also practiced the language with English teacher Hugh Koeze, who studied Arabic at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and classmates such as Shawn Mustafa ’20, who’s from Saudia Arabia.
He began his Arabic course this fall after several years learning Latin, hoping to take a language that he could speak as well as write. “Learning the alphabet is a little harder because you have to learn the phonetic sound of each letter. I’m still not great at pronouncing the deep ‘kh’ sounds,” he says with a laugh.
He jumped at the NSLI-Y scholarship opportunity, in part because it was a summer program that didn’t conflict with school-year athletics at Episcopal. He plays football and wrestles at EHS.
“I’ve always wanted to do an exchange program, but I didn’t have time,” he says. “It’ll be taking classes, being immersed in Arabic, and just learning about the country and culture. It’s really sounds like a lot of fun.”